! Hola Anita! by Anna Blankenberger

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Greetings followers of the Un Mundo blog! My name is Anna Blankenberger and I will be joining the Un Mundo team over the summer working on a comprehensive midwife assessment. I just finished my first year of a two year graduate program in Public Health at University of Illinois at Chicago. The primary reason I chose to conduct my practicum with a grassroots, community organization working with marginalized communities is to verify my belief that it is at the community/local level where the impetus for change truly begins. I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with and learn from the staff/volunteers at Un Mundo, the local organizations as well as the community members in order to better prepare myself for a career in global health. In reference to my experience in la Cuenca Cangrejal, El Pital is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and maybe one of the most striking in which I will ever live. The campo is filled with peaceful sounds, from the steady running water from the river (El Rio Cangrejal)in our backyard to the various animal conversations between cows, pigs, roosters, chickens, dogs, cats, insects, and frogs.  Time is of the essence here. No cell phone, no electricity, no major appliances to distract you, offers one the luxury of slowing down…everything. Days and evenings consist of chatting with neighbors, striding along the one dirt road in town and listening to the children scream “Hola, Anita!”, or playing lots of card games in candlelight to all hours of the evening (well, or at least until 8:00pm which is the normal bedtime in the Cuenca).
I will be moving out of my first home-stay, at la casa de Dona Tina, the only partera (midwife) in El Pital.  Dona Argentina Robles, AKA Super Woman, had pretty magical powers not only in midwifery and traditional healing practices, but also in her strength as a woman.  I don’t know if you have met a woman lately who has given birth to eleven of her
twelve children ALL BY HERSELF, but she is the first I have come across. Her strength is accentuated in that she has lost three of those children to preventive deaths (bronchitis, dengue, and violence).  She spends the majority of her day cleaning, cooking, sending Kevin on errands and waiting for me to come home to shower me with mucho cariño (affection).  We converse often about her role as a midwife and she explains the struggles she has been having lately in getting called upon to assist in births.  “Pista is hard to come by these days,” she tells me.  “There aren’t a lot of pregnant women in these areas anymore and it’s all due to that planifico (family planning) problem.” Other than housing volunteers (which is not that often) her other economic means consists of giving sobras, a traditional rubdown to community members when they are experiencing dolor de la cabeza (headaches), del estamogo  (stomach issues) o de los huesos (achy bones). My brothers, Helmir and Kevin, are also a joy to come home to, demanding we start playing “Ks en la esquina, (Kings in the corner), UNO, or Pitty Parr (a local card game) the second I walk in the door.  Helmir (15) spends most of his time looking in the mirror, writing his non-existent girlfriend love letters and singing English rock songs. “Canta (Sing) ROCK, Anita!” He has grand future plans of becoming a tour guide for the gringos, a bit different from I take Kevin sees for his future.   Kevin’s a bit less social and more humble than Helmir, but certainly not lacking in strength, curiosity, and potential.  Kevin doesn’t want people to know but Doña Tina is really his grandmother.  His mother, who lives in Ceiba (the city an hour away) gave Kevin to Doña Tina when he was little and though she has a job in the city, she almost never visits nor sends money home. Doña Tina wakes Kevin up at 5:00am each morning to look for firewood, sweep the dirt floor and help get all the animals in order.  He’s expected to do more chores and errands when school is called off, which is unfortunately, all too often. In fact, the average child in El Pital only had 100 days of school time in 2009 due to the lack of local teachers and compensation from the government.  Truthfully, I think Kevin enjoys the break and prefers to be among his trees, his river and the rest of nature. Watching Kevin’s natural ability to maneuver his body among the rocks while swimming in el rio, and the way his body glides and becomes one with the water to watching him climb trees, hills and mountains faster than any monkey I have ever seen, he truly knows his tierra (land).
I left the house today after we all shared our last lunch of eggs, beans, cheese and tortillas.  The next two weeks I will be quite mobile, staying with a couple families given I will be trekking to more remote areas in order to identify all remaining midwives. I will miss Doña Tina, Kevin and Helmir, but over dessert last night (I brought home a pineapple to share), I told them I’d be back to visit. There is only ONE main dirt road after all.

Greetings followers of the Un Mundo blog! My name is Anna Blankenberger and I will be joining the Un Mundo team over the summer working on a comprehensive midwife assessment. I just finished my first year of a two year graduate program in Public Health at University of Illinois at Chicago. The primary reason I chose to conduct my practicum with a grassroots, community organization working with marginalized communities is to verify my belief that it is at the community/local level where the impetus for change truly begins. I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with and learn from the staff/volunteers at Un Mundo, the local organizations as well as the community members in order to better prepare myself for a career in global health. In reference to my experience in la Cuenca Cangrejal, El Pital is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and maybe one of the most striking in which I will ever live. The campo is filled with peaceful sounds, from the steady running water from the river (El Rio Cangrejal)in our backyard to the various animal conversations between cows, pigs, roosters, chickens, dogs, cats, insects, and frogs.  Time is of the essence here. No cell phone, no electricity, no major appliances to distract you, offers one the luxury of slowing down…everything. Days and evenings consist of chatting with neighbors, striding along the one dirt road in town and listening to the children scream “Hola, Anita!”, or playing lots of card games in candlelight to all hours of the evening (well, or at least until 8:00pm which is the normal bedtime in the Cuenca).
I will be moving out of my first home-stay, at la casa de Dona Tina, the only partera (midwife) in El Pital.  Dona Argentina Robles, AKA Super Woman, had pretty magical powers not only in midwifery and traditional healing practices, but also in her strength as a woman.  I don’t know if you have met a woman lately who has given birth to eleven of hertwelve children ALL BY HERSELF, but she is the first I have come across. Her strength is accentuated in that she has lost three of those children to preventive deaths (bronchitis, dengue, and violence).  She spends the majority of her day cleaning, cooking, sending Kevin on errands and waiting for me to come home to shower me with mucho cariño (affection).  We converse often about her role as a midwife and she explains the struggles she has been having lately in getting called upon to assist in births.  “Pista is hard to come by these days,” she tells me.  “There aren’t a lot of pregnant women in these areas anymore and it’s all due to that planifico (family planning) problem.” Other than housing volunteers (which is not that often) her other economic means consists of giving sobras, a traditional rubdown to community members when they are experiencing dolor de la cabeza (headaches), del estamogo  (stomach issues) o de los huesos (achy bones). My brothers, Helmir and Kevin, are also a joy to come home to, demanding we start playing “Ks en la esquina, (Kings in the corner), UNO, or Pitty Parr (a local card game) the second I walk in the door.  Helmir (15) spends most of his time looking in the mirror, writing his non-existent girlfriend love letters and singing English rock songs. “Canta (Sing) ROCK, Anita!” He has grand future plans of becoming a tour guide for the gringos, a bit different from I take Kevin sees for his future.   Kevin’s a bit less social and more humble than Helmir, but certainly not lacking in strength, curiosity, and potential.  Kevin doesn’t want people to know but Doña Tina is really his grandmother.  His mother, who lives in Ceiba (the city an hour away) gave Kevin to Doña Tina when he was little and though she has a job in the city, she almost never visits nor sends money home. Doña Tina wakes Kevin up at 5:00am each morning to look for firewood, sweep the dirt floor and help get all the animals in order.  He’s expected to do more chores and errands when school is called off, which is unfortunately, all too often. In fact, the average child in El Pital only had 100 days of school time in 2009 due to the lack of local teachers and compensation from the government.  Truthfully, I think Kevin enjoys the break and prefers to be among his trees, his river and the rest of nature. Watching Kevin’s natural ability to maneuver his body among the rocks while swimming in el rio, and the way his body glides and becomes one with the water to watching him climb trees, hills and mountains faster than any monkey I have ever seen, he truly knows his tierra (land).
I left the house today after we all shared our last lunch of eggs, beans, cheese and tortillas.  The next two weeks I will be quite mobile, staying with a couple families given I will be trekking to more remote areas in order to identify all remaining midwives. I will miss Doña Tina, Kevin and Helmir, but over dessert last night (I brought home a pineapple to share), I told them I’d be back to visit. There is only ONE main dirt road after all.

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